Rebecca Coleman is Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London.
Temporality and the future
Working with a number of colleagues, I am leading the ESRC Seminar Series, Austerity Futures: Imagining and Materialising the Future in an ‘Age of Austerity’. The series examines whether and how the current ‘age of austerity’ in the UK, Europe and some other parts of the developed Western world, changes the ways in which the future is imagined, planned for, worked towards and brought into being. It brings together academics from across the UK who are interested in the future in different ways, and includes five one-day seminars and an international conference in September 2014.
I am also working on surfaces, with a particular interest in how the surface might be a way of re-thinking divisions between different times, spaces and entities; for example bodies and images, present and future, actual and virtual. Drawing on a series of events we organised in Lancaster (May 2013), with Liz Oakley-Brown (English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University) I have set up a network on ‘surface studies’, with the aim of mapping out a set of interdisciplinary theoretical co-ordinates for studying surfaces. The network brings together those working on and with different surfaces, including, but not restricted to, skin, screens, interfaces, lines, fabric, landscape, the earth.
My interest in both futures and surfaces comes out of a recent book – Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (Routledge, 2012). The book explores the way in which self-transformation has become an imperative that is organised through bodily engagement with images. It tracks the imperative of self-transformation across a range of different screens – interactive mirrors; makeover television; online dieting; the Change4Life government health campaign – and drawing on recent theories of affect, develops an account of images as felt and lived out. In particular, the book considers how images of transformation function affectively through a version of a better future, examining how these images bring the future into the present to affectively 'draw in' some bodies more than others. One of the key concerns of the book is therefore to explore the ways in which power may today be working through affect, intensity and potentiality. These ideas have also been explored in other recent publications.
I have also studied the relations between bodies and images through empirical research with teenage girls. This project developed a feminist Deleuzian approach: taking up concepts of affect, intensity and immanence, it argued that bodies and images be understood as entwined processes of becoming. The research involved different kinds of interviews, including an image-making session. Based on this research, I've published a monograph, The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience (2009, Manchester University Press, now available in paperback), and a number of journal articles.
I have a strong interest in inventive methodologies. With Jessica Ringrose (Institute of Education), I have recently edited a book on Deleuze and Research Methodologies (2013, Edinburgh University Press), and, more widely, I am interested in visual and sensory methods.